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Roy Cooper and other Democratic governors file brief in UNC admissions case

North Carolina State Budget
Bryan Anderson
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper holds a news conference in the state Administration Building on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 in Raleigh, N.C.

Nine current and former governors of southern states — including North Carolina's Roy Cooper — have filed a brief in a Supreme Court case over the use of race in college admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University

A conservative activist group called Students for Fair Admissions claims both institutions discriminate against Asian applicants, by giving preferential treatment to students who are Black or Hispanic.

The governors' brief says race-conscious admissions at North Carolina's public universities are "part and parcel of the state government’s commitment to developing the talents of all individuals from all walks of life."

North Carolina’s flagship public university prevailed in a federal district court in October. U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled that the school’s program was intended to produce a diverse student body and had shown the benefits of doing so.

The court accepted the North Carolina case for review even though it has not been heard by a federal appeals court. Students for Fair Admissions founder Edward Blum filed a Supreme Court appeal with the hope that it would be bundled with the Harvard case so that the justices could rule on public and private colleges at the same time.

The cases were combined for a time, but were separated after Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took her seat on the court in June. Jackson, a Harvard alum, pledged to sit out the case because she sits on the university's board. She will hear the UNC case but recuse herself from the Harvard case.

In addition to Cooper, former North Carolina governors Bev Perdue, Mike Easley and Jim Hunt signed on to the brief. They were joined by Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, along with former Georgia governor Roy Barnes, former Mississippi governor Ray Mabus, former governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, and former South Carolina governors Richard Riley and Jim Hodges. All are Democrats.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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